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New Japanese aid to Burma

To BurmaNet subscribers:

     The following short article published in the ASAHI SHIMBUN (morning
edition, May 27, 1998, p. 2) in Japanese indicates that the Japanese
government's principle of freezing ODA after the 1988 coup is being
steadily eroded. Below is my informal translation:


     On May 26, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it had
finalized a plan to give funds amounting to yen 800 million in grant aid
to Myanmar (Burma). After the military coup d'etat of 1988, the Japanese
government has limited aid allocations to "that which proves directly
effective in improving the livelihood of the people." In this case, the
aid will not only be utilized for agricultural machinery, implements,
fertilizer etc., which will be effective in increasing food production,
but also will be directed to the northeastern region of the country to
promote crop substitution in areas where opium poppies are cultivated.
However, this plan, like the unfreezing of yen loan funds in March of
this year [for Mingaladon Airport], seems to indicate a trend of
increasing and broadening Japanese aid to Myanmar.
     On the 26th, the foreign ministry reported its decision to a
meeting of members of the Liberal Democratic Party who are interested in
diplomatic affairs. It obtained the meeting's acknowledgement [RYOSHO,
which perhaps also could be translated as "understanding" or
"approval"]. However, at the Policy Affairs meetings of the ruling
parties (*), the Democratic Socialist and Sakigake Parties expressd
dissenting views, so there has been no formal discussion of the issue.

* Japan is formally governed by a coalition consisting of the Liberal
Democratic, Social Democratic and Sakigake Parties, though the latter
two are much smaller than the LDP, and have serious policy differences
with their senior partner. The coalition is expected to collapse soon.
This may have some impact on Tokyo's Burma policy.
     Yen 800 million is approximately US$5.9 million.

     -Donald M. Seekins
      Okinawa, Japan